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CaRE and its many facets

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You can take the smurphcare story with you anywhere as a pdf:
Conservation and Restoration Ecology (CaRE) Research july 15

One main focus is on conservation ecology especially in parks and protected areas. We take an inclusive approach as projects include population and community ecology studies on different habitats (e.g. prairies, forests, wetlands, shorelines, rivers) and taxa (e.g. plants, fungi, herptiles, arthropods, annelids). We work on the larger socioecological issues involved in management and governance needed to provide a desirable and resilient ecosystem – we have worked with cities, other municipalities, NGOs, private sector partners, federal and provincial agencies, and world organizations like UNESCO and UNEP.

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Dianne, Jessica, Cheryl, Gwyn, Holly, Particia;
Smurphcrew takes over yet another conference

Restoration ecology/resilient ecosystems frame our other major focus. Steve has chaired the Society for Ecological Restoration of Ontario, organized several of the International Meetings of the Society for Ecological Restoration, and been Editor-in-Chief of the journal Restoration Ecology. Steve and his team have led or participated in over 1500 restoration projects. We’ve restored functional aspects of novel and more historical ecosystems and restored prairies, forests, wetlands, shorelines, rivers, and meadows in rural and urban areas.

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We work and play nice; Ph.D.  student Michael McTavish with Laurentian U’s Nate Basiliko and Peter Beckett and U Toronto’s Jason Shebaga at the Sudbury restoration sites in 2015

We mostly work in the real world – outside – but do have a nice sample processing lab, This is equipped mainly with items you’d expect an ecology lab to have like nets, sampling boxes, quadrats, light meters, datapads, shovels, rakes, flagging tape and booby traps for any would be thieves reading this and taking notes.  Suffice to say, we’re well suited for field ecology research and spend most of our research dollars on student salaries, transportation to the field, and mass sample processing.

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The CaRE lab;
not shown – grad students who will go medieval on you if you mess up their stuff

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Smurph in the lab; this is the face Smurph makes if grad students start going medieval on you

We have a terrific array of projects that have made a difference. We have restored over 70,000 ha of habitat, helped conserve over two dozen species-at-risk, and provided management plans and advice to hundreds of worldwide communities and organizations that balanced sustainable livelihoods with a desirably functional ecosystem. The CaRE group and its alumni are everywhere!

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Smurph at SER 2013 with Lauren Hallett, Mike Perring, Tara Davenport and alumnus Dr. Darby McGrath; this was not the first time she had to support Steve

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We really are everywhere – steve and/or his team have done research in ALL of the countries shaded in blue above – yes, that’s most every sovereign nation on earth

CaRE runs or works with several allied research centres; these are 3 examples:

Centre for Applied Sciences in Ontario Protected Areas – as this eponym suggests, this focuses on socioecological research and applications for management in Ontario protected areas – Provincial Parks, Provincial Nature Reserves, National Parks, Conservation Authorities, NGO run areas like those of the Nature Conservancy Canada and Carolinian Canada Coalition, First Nations governed sites like Serpent Mounds, and Municipal Parks.

The journal Restoration Ecology.  Steve Murphy is Editor-in-Chief.  This is the major publishing arm of the Society for Ecological Restoration and represents the latest in one of the major foci of CaRE – best practices, policy, and science in restoration ecology. We are regularly found at the centre of conferences like the SER biennial international meetings. Steve was past-chair of SER Ontario; CaRE alumnus Sal Spitale is the current chair.

The rare Charitable Research Reserve.  This is one of the largest urban research areas and provides an excellent venue for conservation and restoration ecology research. Steve Murphy is part of the team that reviews research proposals and steers the ecological management plan.  Many of our students have done research there, worked there, or volunteered there.

CaRE has received extensive funding – over $20 million in the last 19 years.

We are or have been funded by every NSERC program and most SSHRC programs available. We have been funded by MITACS, Environment Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Parks Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Candian Foundation for Innovation, CANARIE, City of Kitchener, City of Waterloo, Region of Waterloo, BC Ministry of Transportation, Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculturem and Rural Affairs, United Nations Environmental Program, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of Agriculture, US Department of the Interior, several dozen private sector companies – mainly related to small scale consulting that give our students work experience but do not subvert a research agenda in any way. Our success at obtaining funding speaks to the quality and relevance of our research and applications.

CaRE has completed many projects and mentored many students.

CaRE has completed/participated in over 1200 projects and has graduated 20 post-docs/research associates, 175+ graduate students and 500+ undergraduate students. Our alumni are found across the globe but do dominate the Great Lakes restoration and conservation fields.

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2018 PhD Opportunities

Ph.D. students are sought for a research project entitled, “Linking stream network process models to robust data management systems for the purpose of land-use decision support “

The research project is to develop a digital platform to improve the science, communications, and outcomes surrounding land-use decision making in river networks.  The proposed system is a ‘big data’ effort at the University of Waterloo to combine monitoring and modelling efforts from the ecological restoration and river hydraulics groups with a data management platform created by the computer systems group that supports environmental decision making.  Funding has been secured through the Global Water Futures initiative (https://gwf.usask.ca/) with the overall goal of forecasting, preparing for and managing water futures in the face of dramatically increasing risks.

As collective systems, rivers integrate the incremental land cover changes from pervious natural or agricultural surfaces to impervious urban cover.  Common impacts include increased flooding, unstable streams, and degraded aquatic ecosystems, which together describe an ‘urban stream syndrome’.  People have developed strategies to mitigate these effects, but many questions remain, particularly in the face of a changing climate.  Deleterious impacts are poorly quantified, climate change increases risk, and the benefits of mitigation strategies remain uncertain.  Given the capital expense and importance for long-term finances and the ecological sustainability of the rivers, it is essential to obtain a better understanding of disturbance and response in these environments. Informed decision making would draw from diverse fields of biology, water chemistry, morphology, hydrology, and hydraulics, but available information is typically siloed, with little to link it across disciplines and between stakeholders

Stakeholders need a spatial decision support system that will gather and analyse stream network information to support land-development decision making.  Scientifically, such a system is needed to understand watershed-scale adjustment processes and fuel a search for solutions that address not just isolated symptoms of the urban stream syndrome, but also the root causes of physical and ecological imbalances and degradation.  For such a system to be effective it needs to be built upon a robust data management framework, incorporate analysis modules based on the best supported science in the respective subfields, allow users to interact with the data, and formalize outputs that can be used to support decision making.  By providing a data management and modelling system that connects raw data with relevant results for a variety of stakeholders, the system will allow users to visualize and compare the long-term and larger scale impact of local land use and stream management decisions on channel morphology and ecology, while also considering the additional risk posed by climate change.  Supported decisions include choices on where and how to build cities, what hydrological or ecological mitigation strategies to choose, and where/what restoration would be the most effective.  Much of the work will be done through case studies due to the present-day needs of the stakeholders and the availability of rare data sets in these catchments from previous work.

Currently we are looking for 4 PhD students.  Our vision is to treat this group as a team by encouraging them to follow a similar timeline to their degrees and co-locating the office space on campus.  Regular workshops and strategy meetings will be held with other GWF researchers and system developers to brainstorm ideas, spark creativity, clarify the methods, and forge the transdisciplinary links that will allow this nexus-type system to produce transformative results. The students will be co-supervised across departments to ensure adequate training in computer science, hydraulics, and ecology.  They will be encouraged to enroll in the Collaborative Water Program at UW to expose them to a wide range of water-related fields.  Students will be encouraged to complete industrial internships to develop a first-hand appreciation of the problem of decision making in for river management, disseminate knowledge to the partners, and improve the practical impact of the project.

Students based in ERS:

·         PhD in ecological modelling at a stream network scale.  Activities 3, 4, and 6. Home department in Environment, Resource, and Sustainability with co-supervision in Civil and Environmental Engineering.  (contact Stephen Murphy)

·         PhD in adaptive management modelling. Activities 4, 5, and 6.  Home department in Environment, Resource, and Sustainability with co-supervision in Computer Science. (contact Simon Courtenay and Stephen Murphy jointly as Simon is on sabbatical)

 

Student based in Engineering, co-supervised in ERS

·         PhD in modelling of stream network sediment transport and morphological change.  Experience with river engineering, fluvial geomorphology, sediment transport, computer programming, hydrologic and hydraulic modelling, and stormwater management are assets.  Home department Civil and Environmental Engineering with co-supervision in Environment, Resource, and Sustainability

 

Student based in Computing Science and in Engineering

·         PhD in ontology and decision support system design. Activities 1 and 5. Home department in Computer Science with co-supervision in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

 

If you are interested, please contact one of the researchers from the list below; as this is posted in the ERS webspace, the most relevant projects and contacts are those from ERS itself.

ERS contacts:

Stephen Murphy

Professor & Director, School of Environment, Resources & Sustainability
University of Waterloo

stephen.murphy@uwaterloo.ca

 

Simon Courtenay

Professor, Canadian Rivers Institute at the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability

University of Waterloo

Simon.Courtenay@uwaterloo.ca

 

(Collaborating professors)

Bruce MacVicar

Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

University of Waterloo

bmacvicar@uwaterloo.ca

 

Paulo Alencar

Adjunct Professor, Cheriton School of Computer Science

University of Waterloo

palencar@uwaterloo.ca

 

Don Cowan

Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Cheriton School of Computer Science

University of Waterloo

dcowan@csg.uwaterloo.ca

2017 in SmurphCaRE Land

2017 started off with a bang – literally.

I broke my ?&*!! clavicle on 9 January.  This was 24 years after my thesis defence – to the very day.  Weird.

That’s why there’s been a bit of a gap in posting updates – by the time I healed in March, it was nearing field season and conference season so that occupied the rest of 2017 as we had warm weather through mid November.  I had the posts ready but duty called.

Here, then, is the 2017 story of the smurphworld.  Brought to you by Bob’s Slings and Other Things. Yes, when you break your clavicle, think Bob.

Despite the busted clavicle, we launched a successful course in ReWilding and Ecological Restoration. As part of this course, we did a case example working with the Ontario Water Centre – ReWilding Lake Simcoe Project.  This was a good way to launch the course with an on the ground example of how different groups interpret ReWilding.

 

At the beginning of a very warm spell in March, I helped run a workshop under the Centre for Applied Sciences in Ontario Protected Areas banner.  We worked with The Niagara Escarpment Parks and Open Space System Council (NEPOSS) on what we called Big Box Greenspace – meaning they run the risk of becoming subject to ‘high numbers of visitors and an intensity of use beyond the resources of managers to accommodate’.  We had a full house – the extended SmurphCaRE group plus awesome students from my unit, the School of  Environment, Resources & Sustainability, were there – that’s Jonas Hamberg (PhD student) hamming it up as usual below.  I also managed to visit Mount Nemo Conservation Area – a favourite spot of mine on the Niagara Escarpment.  My left arm (the side where the clavicle broke) was just fresh out of the sling.

 

In April, we did the defences for all of my undergraduate thesis students – most of whom focused on various aspects of restoration and conservation ecology – and the cohort for all of my home unit of SERS.  One of the defences is pictured below as is the final SmurphCaRE extended year-end party in April to launch field season 2017 and to say farewell to graduates.  Yes, I know, my extended lab group is huge.  It does include folks in my classes (many of whom join the lab in fall 2018 as thesis students) and some other friends of smurphCaRE.

 

I went up to Peterborough in late April to meet with OMNRF (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) about the 2017 CASIOPA AGM that occurred later in 2017 (see post near the end of this update).  It was nice and warm. Very warm.  Got to see some of the local provincial parks too. I did not actually go into Petroglyphs itself since it was not yet officially open and I don’t abuse my privileges, especially where First Nations’ culture is concerned – I just like their signs so I took some shots of the edge of the Park.  Quackenbush PP is also sensitive (no sign there – this really ensures there is no unauthorized access) but I got to visit the edges of it too – again, it has a lot of cultural value to First Nations so I never have gone in that park without permission and simply walked near its borders where possible.

A big highlight – the Kawartha Highlands PNR’s new access areas are really great – those I could enter.

 

Field season started and my graduate students are really busy even now with analyzing all their 2017 data (and before).  We’ll add some nice pics soon but here is the summary:

  • Jonas Hamberg started working our new $1.1 million NSERC-CRD with The Ontario Aggregate Resources Corporation and Walker Holdings Inc. as we explore rapid ecological restoration approaches to old quarries.   This project owes much to the efforts of my post-doc, Paul Richardson (who is project manager).
  • Andrew Moraga joined this project later in September as our spatial ecological guru.
  • Heather Cray is finishing her PhD work on restoration ecology in prairies.
  • Michael McTavish is also finishing his PhD on earthworm impacts on conservation and restoration ecology.
  • Patricia Huynh’s PhD on conservation and restoration of urban streams and salamander habitats progresses nicely (funded by another NSERC grant – a Strategic Grant with Bruce MacVicar in Engineering at UWaterloo).
  • Meaghan Wilton is finishing her PhD on greenhouse gas management in the Argentinian Pampas farmlands.
  • Katie Kish (co-supervised by Steve Quilley who is the lead advisor) is nearing the finish line with her thesis on Ecological Economics 2.0:Reincorporating the socio-sphere in ecological economic theory and practice.
  • Tomm Mandryk is finishing his Master’s on conservation and restoration with prescribed burns in alvars, working with the Nature Conservancy.
  • Alex Novacic is in the midst of examining how we can remediate and reforest roadsides; her pic is below – this is one of her field sites

    PPA17 Trt 2 looking towards Trt 3

  • Amanda Shamas and Sheralyn Dunlop are working on a couple of different aspects of trait-based approaches to wetland restoration ecology for their Master’s degrees.
  • Chelsey Greene is out west in Alberta working on her Master’s on how restoration and remediation ecology can fulfill mandates for carbon capture and greenhouse gas mitigation in general as part of urban and landscape sustainability.
  • Ian Blainey started his Master’s on how we can assess impacts of invasives in ecological restoration management for the Cheltenham Badlands, working with the Ontario Heritage Foundation.
  • Cassy Wiens is ramping up her new Master’s project on the role of backyard conservation and restoration in landscape scale urban restoration ecology.
  • Gwyn Govers is finishing her part time MES degree with her penultimate draft of her thesis on how garlic mustard and forest fragmentation impact some of Ontario’s key species of ants.
  • Natasha Lukey successfully defended her MES Thesis (Sara Ashpole, a smurphCaRE alumnus was co-advisor); she worked on managing invasive bullfrogs in the Okanagan corridors in BC. Natasha is pictured here post-defence. Yes, she’s happy. She did a great job.

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In May, I was invited to Galiano Island BC to help officially launch REGEN – the new Restoration Ecology Education Network that Eric Higgs (U Vic) and I have been organizing for a couple of years.  This was with the Templeton Foundation and we discussed the intersection and tensions between culture, religion and restoration ecology.  Eric, Jim Harris, and me had a great evening to close the event on Galiano Island; before that, it was many days of great discussion and journeys with people like Emily Gonzales, Carol Hall, Erin Beller, Willis Jenkins, Katie Suding, Jeanine Rhemtulla, Val Schaefer, Jeremy Kidwell, Steve Jackson, John Volpe, Allen Thompson, Loren Wilkinson, Dan Spencer, and Chad Wigglesworth.

 

June brought me to Edmonton Alberta where the North American Forest Ecology Workshop kindly invited me to do a plenary on Anticipation Ecology: Determine When and How to Initiate Forest Restoration and Reclamation.  I got to catch up with a lot of people, including my former Master’s student Kylie McLeod, who is working for Ducks Unlimited out west.

 

The next big event was the 2017 Ecological Society of American conference in Portland Oregon.  Michael and Heather presented; Michael had won the 2017 Braun Award from ESA and got a big moment in the sun (literally – it was a blistering 41 C; the smoke from the forest fires soon blotted out the sun in spots).  Many of the great gang was there – Richard Hobbs and Gillian Henderson, Loretta Battaglia, Cara Nelson, Pam Weisenhorn, Katie Suding, Steve Jackson, Lauren Hallett, Lizzie King, Kris Hulvey, Jonathan Bauer, Anna Groves, Chad Zirbel, Nancy Shackleford, Brandon Bestelmeyer, Keith Bowers, and so many more.   A highlight for me was visiting one of my favourite places – the Cascade Head region of Oregon and then down the coast.  Spectacular!

 

 

I had to do SER 2017 in Brazil in absentia; it has been a bit of a trying 2016-2017 in some regards (the broken clavicle was icing on the cake, shall we say), so I ended up focusing my attention elsewhere during the meeting, sadly.  My contributions were handled by Loretta Battaglia, Pati Vitt, and Pam Weisenhorn.  They are awesome. No pix because I was not there physically.  2019 is in South Africa so that will make up for it.

The fall and early winter of 2017 brought more research grants (a big one as part of the Global Water Futures – we’re advertising for PhD students so see that separate post).

Related, we won a nice grant from Microsoft to get access to their Azure platform for machine learning and big data analysis.  I’m also part of a OMNRF Big Data group that will meet in March 2018. Good times.

Fall is for teaching my now 3rd year course in Restoration Ecology!

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The end of September saw our big 20th Anniversary of CASIOPA – we’re overhauling the website site right now in 2018 so I’ve left the post update there lag but we had a full house with speakers like Nik Lopoukhine, Christina Davy, and Pamela Wright.  Lots of great fields trips thanks to OMNRF’s Susan Cooper. Alumni from my home unit of SERS and SmurphCaRE attended; this included Nigel Finney, Kelly Moores, Scott Parker, and Lindsay Campbell.

 

Perhaps the biggest thing from 2017 was the publication with Stu Allison (the real leader here) of our Routledge Handbook of Ecological and Environmental Restoration. This has some truly exceptional authors so buy a million copies today.  (there is a less expensive e-version so it is pretty affordable given it is over 400 pages of rock-em sock-em restoration ecology).

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“Excellent….”

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Bookending fall’s start and finish, Smurph lab did the social whirl – grad house on a warm Sept day and a good Sushi bar meal near xmas; the SmurphCaRE gang prospers:

 

I still have to add some of the 2017 publications (I am at that stage of career where the process is the best part – mentoring the next generation is fun) so there will be a few more updates but this is a pretty good reflection.

What will 2018 bring?  No broken bones for me, I hope.

It is the Silver Jubilee of the journal I edit – yes, Restoration Ecology.  And I led off with an editorial where I am not too kind to shady politicians, am not too fond of splitters rather than joiners, but talk about the best of who we are in restoration ecology and where we might go – so the message for 2018 is hope.

 

We went to ESA 2016. Boy, did we ever

I’ll post the scientific stuff soon enough.  Below are some pics of the crew and friends. We know how to do conferences right. Patricia Huynh, Heather Cray, and Michael McTavish rocked the conference.  The usual suspects included Richard Hobbs, Eric Higgs, Bryan Norton, Steve Jackson, Allen Thompson, Edie Allen, George Gann, Brandon Bestelmeyer below – not too shabby a group.  It was great to hang out with Lars Brudvig and lab.  And catching up with Carolina Murcia was a real bonus on the last day of the conference.

smurphcare students busy as bees…literally

The wacky 2016 weather meant a slow start but then a sudden plunge into field season – the phenology is running 2-3 weeks ahead.  We’ll need to catch up with posting in the fall.  For now, here’s some shots of what Tomm Mandryk (using burn boxes to simulate prescribed burns for restoration), Heather Cray (assessing prairie restoration), Michael McTavish (earthworm impacts), Patricia Huynh (urban impacts on conservation and restoration), Jonas Hamberg (assessing success of ecological restoration) and others have been up to:

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2015-2016: Undergraduate Research Projects/Theses

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This was taken December 2015 at our xmas celebration.  These are actually CaRE undergraduate students, co-op student alumni, & special guest star.

Heather Short, Julie Galloway (c0-advised by Brad Fedy), Brian Studer, Jessica Williamson (alum), Timmy Nassar (alum), Nick Allen (special guest star), Jacob Orlandi (alum & has an IMDB credit – as a baby!), Melody Fraser, Kathryn Russell, Karissa Finlayson, Cameron Curran

Absent: Rachel Hodgson, Ben North, Cooper Sheridan, Jon Jorna

 

Heather worked on a wetland characterization and ecological restoration plan with the City of Kitchener using the Novel Ecosystems framework

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Jon worked on assessing success of ecological restoration in Pioneer Tower Natural Area

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Brian examined effectiveness at necessity of control of mosquitoes in Waterloo Region

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Karissa monitored the ecological integrity and potential need for ecological restoration in urban woodlands

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Rachel worked on how populations of amphibians respond to urbanization

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Melody worked with me and Jonathan Price on management and restoration potential for peat bogs that have been harvested for commercial use

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Cameron worked on best practices for ecological restoration of quarries

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Kathryn worked with the Long Point Biosphere Reserve on how effective policies for protection have been and how these have changed in the last 30+ years

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Leigh-Anne Bower (formerly of LPBB – now with a CA) & Brian Craig

 

Ben examined best practices for conservation management of large mammals

One of the challenges for conservation managers is to determine how large mammals like bears will respond to habitat fragmentation, human caused climate change, and other factors.  Ben is seeking to determine strategic approaches to tackling this problem.

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Cooper’s research was focused on whether tree planting (mass commercial, nursery-style reclamation) has net carbon benefits or deficits.

While tree planting (nursery-style) is not restoration ecology, it can offer some reclamation benefits to land that would otherwise be degraded.  While there may be better approaches, the mass tree-planting strategy is not likely to end anytime soon.  One interesting question is whether a life cycle analysis will reveal that the energy inputs needs to replant are lower, about equal, or greater than biomass that is the output and how this might affect the carbon source-sink relations, at least at a regional scale.  We do know that forest differ in their carbon relations depending on the species composition, successional stage, overall ‘health’, and local environmental context and conditions.  Cooper aims to examine the tree planting industry as a whole.

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 This is a local reforested (mass cathedral planting) site
St. Williams Ontario – now undergoing a more ambitious ecological restoration